Fifty years ago, President Kennedy embarked on the last great campaign of his life—the struggle for a sustainable peace with the Soviet Union and a dramatic slowdown in the proliferation of nuclear arms.
In October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union were on the edge of the nuclear abyss during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both Kennedy and his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Khrushchev, were deeply shaken by the near-death experience.
Jeffrey Sachs, author of To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace, joins 92YTribeca to show how Kennedy emerged from the crisis with the determination and prodigious skills to forge a new and less threatening direction for the world. Gillian Martin Sorensen, senior advisor at the United Nations Foundation, and widow of Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen, moderates.
Together, Kennedy and Khrushchev would pull the world away from the nuclear precipice, charting a path for future peacemakers to follow.
Between June 1963 and September 1963, Kennedy gave a series of speeches in which he pushed back against the momentum of the Cold War to persuade his country and the world that peace with the Soviets was possible. The oratorical high point came on June 10, 1963, at American University, when Kennedy delivered the most important foreign policy speech of the modern presidency. He argued against the prevailing pessimism that viewed humanity as doomed by forces beyond its control. Mankind, argued Kennedy, could bring a new peace into reality through a bold vision combined with concrete and practical measures. Ted Sorensen was the speechwriter for this speech, and we're honored to have his widow, Gillian Martin Sorensen, interview Jeffrey at this event.
Achieving the first of those measures in the summer of 1963, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, required more than just speechmaking, however. Kennedy had to use his great gifts of persuasion on multiple fronts—with fractious allies, hawkish Republican congressmen, dubious members of his own administration, and the American and world public—to persuade a skeptical world that cooperation between the superpowers was realistic and necessary. Join for a conversation on how Kennedy campaigned for his vision and opened the eyes of the American people and the world to the possibilities of peace.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He is a world-leading advocate of the Millennium Development Goals, which are designed to reduce extreme poverty, disease and hunger, and he directs the Sustainable Development Solutions Network on behalf of the UN secretary-general. In 2004 and 2005 he was named one of the hundred most influential leaders in the world by Time magazine.
Gillian Martin Sorensen, senior advisor at the United Nations Foundation, is a national advocate on matters related to the United Nations and the United States-United Nations relationship, addressing audiences as diverse as Rotary International and the Air Force Academy; university students; staff and members of Congress; journalists and leaders of civil society.
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